Long-term effectiveness of a multi-use marine protected area on reef fish assemblages and fisheries landings

Alexis N. Rife, Octavio Aburto-Oropeza, Philip A. Hastings, Brad Erisman, Ford Ballantyne, Jeffrey Wielgus, Enric Sala, Leah Gerber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


The Loreto Bay National Park (LBNP) is a large, multi-use marine protected area in the Gulf of California, Mexico, where several types of small-scale commercial and recreational fishing are allowed, but where less than 1% of the park is totally protected from fishing. The LBNP was created in 1996; its management plan was completed in 2000, but it was not effectively implemented and enforced until 2003. Between 1998 and 2010, we monitored reef fish populations annually at several reefs inside and outside the LBNP to measure the effects of the park on fish assemblages. We also evaluated reported fisheries landings within the LBNP for the same time series. Our results show that reef fish biomass increased significantly after protection at a small no-take site at LBNP relative to the rest of the park. However, the multi-use part of LBNP where fishing is allowed (99% of its surface) has had no measurable effect on reef fish biomass relative to open access sites outside the park boundaries. Reported fisheries landings have decreased within the park while increasing in nearby unprotected areas. Although the current partial protection management regime has not allowed for reef fish populations to recover despite 15 years as a " protected area," we conclude that LBNP's regulations and management have maintained the conditions of the ecosystem that existed when the park was established. These results suggest that community livelihoods have been sustained, but a re-evaluation of the multi-use management strategy, particularly the creation of larger no-take zones and better enforcement, is needed to improve the reef fish populations in the park in order to ensure sustainable fisheries far into the future. These recommendations can be applied to all multi-use MPAs in Mexico where ecosystem recovery is not occurring despite maintenance of fish stocks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)276-283
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
StatePublished - Mar 5 2013


  • Beyond-BACI analysis
  • Fisheries management
  • Gulf of California
  • Marine protected area
  • No-take areas
  • Reef fish assemblages

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


Dive into the research topics of 'Long-term effectiveness of a multi-use marine protected area on reef fish assemblages and fisheries landings'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this